30-Apr-2007 -- While returning from the "Holy Grail" of caving in New Mexico's Guadalupe Mountains, we were able to make a quick hike to 35 North 105 West. We thought about visiting this confluence on the way down to the Guadalupe Mountains, but decided against it when one of the vehicles in our party was having trouble. Even after our eventful trip that included 5 caves in 2 days, I was looking forward to the confluence. We had driven by it for over 17 years during our Guadalupe cave expeditions but had never stopped.
Half of our caving party had departed the night before, so we three remaining cavers departed our campsite at Roswell a bit before 6:00am. We made the traditional stop for a beverage in Vaughn, the only town around for miles and miles. Vaughn was bypassed by the interstate highway and it has a half abandoned feel to it. Still, it did sport a new hotel that we noticed this time...not Bates Motel. In Vaughn, we were surprised to find that the temperature was quite chilly, only about 45 degrees F (7 C). With each mile to the confluence, the temperature rose, so that it was 55 F by the time we stopped, very close to the 35th Parallel. It was mid-morning and the skies were gray, but at least it was not hot and the short hike would be pleasant.
We quickly donned raincoats and took sign, landowner permission letter, GPS, and camera, slithering between one of the best maintained barbed wire fences I have yet encountered. With GPS indicating 610 meters to the confluence, we helped each other through the four strands of the fence and made a beeline to the west-northwest. We traversed flat terrain covered in sparse but high grass and dotted with cholla and prickly pear cactus. Spring wildflowers were in fair abundance, and it was quite a lovely desert spot. We passed under a power line and reached the confluence in about 15 minutes.
The confluence lies on flat ground with clear views in all directions. To the south, we could spot the tops of trucks along Interstate Highway 40, crossing the prairie between Albuquerque and Amarillo. We could see no water at the site and only one ranch house, the one to the southeast, about 1 mile distant. We could still see the vehicle to the east. The populaton density in this region is extremely low, and it was refreshing not to see the urban sprawl that we are accustomed to along Colorado's Front Range. The land use here is largely ranching with a bit of natural gas exploration to the south. To the north begin the pinon and juniper forests as one approaches Las Vegas, New Mexico. We saw a few birds but no animals even though we kept an eye out for snakes. The field we were walking on had been grazed at least once in the past. I marvel at how these ranchers can find their cattle after they roam on such large parcels, and without GPS or radio collars!
We took several photographs and a movie, but since we had a long way to drive back to Colorado, only spent about 10 minutes at the site. 105 West is my "home" meridian, running closest to my home, and therefore I have stood on it several times before in New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. I had not visited a New Mexico confluence since my wonderful hike along the Santa Fe Trail just 1 degree north of here with a naturalist, a park ranger, and others back in 2002. This was my 2nd time to stand on 35 North; the other time occurred in North Carolina. This was Lilia's 14th confluence visit but the first one for Norman (although he is an experienced GPS user) so we barraged him with questions about how he enjoyed the experience.
We hiked back the way we came without incident, and managed the fence even better this time. We drove north, feeling centered. Indeed, this was the perfect way to end a weekend full of wonderful geography and good friends.